Morning Report: Dricus Du Plessis details UFC 296 scuffle, says Sean Strickland ‘was so irritated’

Dricus Du Plessis’ first time sitting cageside at a UFC event was a memorable experience.

Business expectedly picked up last Friday during the UFC’s seasonal press conference. Building hype for the upcoming trio of PPV headliners in 2024, the promotion got all six pairs of champions and challengers together, including Du Plessis’ and middleweight’s filterless current king Sean Strickland. At UFC 297 on Jan. 20, the pair of aggressive strikers go toe-to-toe in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Strickland, 32, has become notorious for his outspoken nature, never shy to unleash unwarranted opinions on anything or anyone and anything. When Du Plessis mentioned Strickland’s previously revealed mentions of child abuse from his father growing up, it got to the champion more than anticipated.

“Obviously, you know, this is a big mental game,” Du Plessis told The Coach and The Casual (h/t MMA Mania). “This whole fight thing is a mental game for me. [Pressers are] all fun and games. But at the end of the day, that’s part of it. That’s part of the fight, what happens in that press conference. That’s a fight before the fight just like the weigh-in is. There’s nothing you could possibly say to throw me off. And I said, ‘Cool. I’m gonna start chipping away and see where when I get this.’

“He looks like a guy that he’s not gonna be easy to freak because he dishes it out. The first thing I said [did it], and that was only the beginning. He’s so glad it was the end, I had so much more to go. Oh my God, I was so ready, and that was the first thing I said to this guy! I thought, ‘Oh, he’s acting,’ and then I saw like, ‘I really got him.’ Okay. I did all this homework, and I did all this preparation for this, and now the first thing I say [got him].”

The seasonal press conference set the tone for the type of interactions to expect in the coming weeks before UFC 297 and boiled over early just one day later. UFC 296 closed out the 2023 calendar for the promotion and resulted in a preview of Strickland vs. Du Plessis in the crowd after they were sat next to each other front row.

UFC CEO Dana White came out later that night and took the blame for his foolish placement of the fighters in the crowd. With such a coincidence, Strickland and Du Plessis’ fellow middleweight Robert Whittaker speculated that the decision was intentional to set up the incident that occurred. Du Plessis doubts that was the case, however.

“No,” Du Plessis said when asked if he thought the scuffle was set up. “Well, I mean, I don’t think so.

“We walk in, and I look at my ticket,” Du Plessis said. “This is my first time sitting cageside. I live in South Africa, I don’t come to all the events. ‘This is your row, row C, Seat number 4 or 5,’ whatever. And I go, ‘Okay.’ And I see that’s Sean Strickland over there. I’m assuming they’re gonna [put me on the other side]. And the guy goes, ‘No. You’re on that side.’ I immediately realized, like, he’s in row A, then it’s B, and C, meaning we are sitting two rows apart. We even had the same seat number. So he’s literally sitting right in front of me.

“They tell me the cameras are gonna be on you guys now, and I obviously know this is his domain. They’re definitely booing me. And I just went, ‘Cool.’ I’m just gonna join them with the boos and boo him. I’m like, cool, I’m with you guys, I’m booing him too. And as I did it, I could see him on the screen, I just saw that he was so irritated.

“Then he turned around, and he did the whole gun thing,” he continued. “He was just so frustrated, and I said, ‘Listen, even with that gun you’re missing.’ And he kinda looked around, and I said, ‘Yeah, look in front of you before I beat your ass.’”

After Strickland’s gesture, the UFC cut to a promo on the broadcast as social media quickly began stirring and sharing what immediately transpired.

“We were looking at each other, he said something, I said something,” Du Plessis said. “And it was almost like, okay, that’s the end of the storm. And I turned, still looking at him, and he turned … and then he just jumped. I thought it was over, and he just jumped. Here we go.

“It was crazy because we were in between a lot of fighters. It was so crazy, the vibe after the whole thing happened. Usually, if you’re in a social setting like that and something like that happens, some people are crying. But you just see all the fighters like ‘Yeah! Yeah!’”

Thankfully, before Strickland began unloading punches atop his next opponent, he asked Gilbert Burns‘ children to get out of the way, which was fuel for the previous speculation. Ultimately, Du Plessis will be Strickland’s first title defense as the recently minted champion and they’ll soon get their hands on each other legally.

Due to the incident’s nature, legal action could be applicable, but for the South African, it was nothing in the grand scheme as he seeks his ninth straight win (20-2) in his first UFC title fight.

“I mean, when people sue each other in South Africa, that’s for, like, real stuff, not little stuff,” Du Plessis said. “If he hit me with a chair from behind or whatever, that is causes for some concern. But it was a good old-fashioned scrap. It was mutual combat. Yeah.”

Aftermath. Colby Covington claims he broke his foot in ‘the first 30 seconds’ of Leon Edwards fight at UFC 296

Contention. Belal Muhammad slams Leon Edwards’ claim he doesn’t deserve title shot: ’That’s what pisses me off the most about him

Gnarly. Josh Emmett describes feeling of ‘brutal knockout’ of Bryce Mitchell, responds to criticism for his celebration

Departure. UFC releases veteran heavyweight Parker Porter

Homecoming. Nobuyuki Sakakibara confirms past talks with Anderson Silva, ‘doors open’ for legends’ retirement fights in RIZIN

Booked. Aljamain Sterling vs. Chase Hooper, Terrance McKinney vs. Sidney Outlaw set for grappling matches at ADXC 2

Negotiations. Deontay Wilder explains what he needs from PFL in order to fight Francis Ngannou in ‘mixed rules’ bout

Between the Links.

UFC Records That Were Broken in 2023.

Matchmaker for a day.

PFL 2023 Certified Stars.

Tawanchai vs. Superbon preview.

Muay Thai violence.

Zombie Trip 3.

Fancy armbar setup.

Heck of a Morning. MMA Fighting’s Mike Heck discusses whether or not Belal Muhammad will get his chance at UFC gold against Leon Edwards.

Takada’s farewell.


PFL Africa.


Coming up.


Canadian Superman.


Robert Whittaker (24-7) vs. Paulo Costa (14-2); UFC 298, Feb. 17

Geoff Neal (15-5) vs. Ian Machado Garry (13-0); UFC 298, Feb. 17

Yair Rodriguez (18-4) vs. Brian Ortega (15-3); UFC Mexico City, Feb. 24

Erin Blanchfield (12-1) vs. Manon Fiorot (11-1); UFC Atlantic City, March 30

Jiri Prochazka (29-4-1) vs. Aleksandar Rakic (14-3); UFC 300, April 13

Aljamain Sterling (23-4) vs. Calvin Kattar(23-7); UFC 300, April 13

Bo Nickal (5-0) vs. Cody Brundage (10-5); UFC 300, April 13

Happy holidays, gang! I’ll see you after the festivities. Until then, enjoy the time of year, kick back and relax. Thanks for reading!


Will Belal Muhammad get the next UFC welterweight title shot?

If you find something you’d like to see in the Morning Report, hit up @DrakeRiggs_ on Twitter and let him know about it. Also, follow MMAFighting on Instagram and like us on Facebook.

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